Okay. I was supposed to post this stuff back in July or so, but apparently I got distracted. It can happen!

In this post: Scans of old books, and rambling on the contents of thereof.

Unfortunately neither of the books have ISBNs but I’m trying to provide as complete details as how they were published.

I’m mostly scanning these books because I’m interested of the absolutely adorable typography in pre-digital typesetting world. I’m trying to replicate the look as closely as possible in an upcoming short story collection of mine.

I’m also posting this because I’d like to ramble about old phobias of mine, and some weird memories I had back in the day. Hopefully this will get me closer to closure of some sort. I guess.

Easy, Fun and Safe Experiments with “X-Rays” Every Boy Can Do

Ilmari Jäämaa. Nuorten Kokeilijain ja Keksijäin Kirja. 13. painos. Werner Söderström Osakeyhtiö, Porvoo & Helsinki, 1958.

“Young Experimenter’s and Inventor’s Book”.

This is a rather fascinating book. It’s trying to get kids hooked into these dangerous (these days potentially Satanic) things called “science” and “technology”. What were they thinking? =) Seriously, though, it’s an incredible book.

It has a whole lot of material on how to build some interesting widgets, starting from mechanical contraptions and moving to rudimentary electronics – how to build your own batteries (Yes! You would be surprised how simple dry cells are to build, especially in Finland where we have enough ammonium chloride to stick in candies and torment foreigners with them! And yes, pharmacies sell salmiac to this day!), electric engines and such. It also has some stuff on optics and how to build telescopes, projectors, cameras, and how to develop film and photographs.

My father got this book in 1963, according to the exlibris. Of course, being a film nut, he was most interested of building a film projector, and that part of the book has most of the curious scribblings. However, some of the most curious recipes were clearly beyond his ability, because *ahem* availability was starting to get a bit scarce. To wit, he had quite a bit of problems pulling off some of the fun and easy experiments that this book had to offer when the store didn’t have some of the *ahem* crucial components.

Like many other, you may have the impression that

EXPERIMENTS WITH RÖNTGEN RAYS, OR X-RAYS,

are difficult and dangerous – and not to even mention expensive – to perform. But hardly any of these accusations are true, especially what comes to small experiments that any amateur can perform. In any case, when experimenting with X-rays, you must be especially careful as not to have them affect your body for longer periods of time, in which case they may have harmful effects. […] Small X-ray tubes may be purchased in stores that sell devices.

The book has detailed instructions on how to build a Ruhmkorff induction coil and perform all sorts of interesting experiments with them. Including dog-tormenting (because, as everyone knows, dogs are bloody smart and cunning buggers, so you need to make electric trashcans, not electric fences), Jacob’s ladders and such. And you can totally hook up the X-ray tubes really easily:

Yup. Notice the distinct lack of lead shielding. Not quite as mad as the Godiva device, I have to say, but not too far from that.

Oh, but surely the lead shields are part of the observation equipment, right? I mean, X-rays are only useful when something reacts to them, causing light on visible range of spectrum. Like

…a fluorescent visor. Paper cards covered with barium platinum cyanur are available in stores, and these are most wonderful for this purpose…

(…I take it this was also mysteriously unavailable in stores by the time my dad got around to try this…)

…let’s see. The part that goes to your face – “felt”. …don’t think it contains any lead. Sides? “a chassis of wood or cardboard.” …don’t think those have any lead either.

Oh, and the book recommends an exposure of 5 to 15 minutes to get best effects with a photographic plate rig. Right.

The book also has instructions how to build Tesla transformers and the book briefly just said that it couldn’t even begin to explain all of the awesome shit you could do with the things, which is perhaps the most appropriate reaction to anything involving Nikola Tesla’s contributions to science.

Really, this book was “how to do mad science at home”.

Fortunately, the book did have some sane uses for induction coils – specifically, you could build radio transmitters with them. And it fortunately noted that you need a ham radio licence for that stuff, and had a helpful bunch of pointers on how to study for it and obtain it. Unlike X-ray tubes, which are totally available from all stores without any questions asked. =)

The interesting part about this book is that while it has tons of non-fiction stuff, it actually has a fictional frame narrative, probably just to get them young boys to follow it more keenly. An older boy telling the younger boys how to do all this crazy stuff. Some of the things actually go through dialogue. It’s a rather unusual notion, I have to say.

Not flinching that much when seeing an old horrible photograph

Original work in Danish:
Paul Bergsøe & Michael Schrøder (editors). VOR VIDEN.

Finnish edition:
Lauri Hirvensalo (translator). UUSIN TIETO Luonnosta ja Ihmisestä (III osa). Werner Söderström Osakeyhtiö, Porvoo & Helsinki, 1954.

This is kind of a follow-up to a bit of babbling I wrote over a year ago.

Short summary: When I was playing The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, I suddenly realised that when I was a kid, I was absolutely terrified of death. And mummies. And cannibals. And such. And considering the absolutely paralysing fears back then, I’m actually handling all of that stuff relatively well these days. Hey, I was traumatised for some reason, but now I’m just fine, right?

This is what I wrote in the article:

And the reason I was freaked out about cannibals was that I ran into a really old book that had a photograph of a skull. Not really scary, now that I think of it – I was just scared about skulls in general. The book was about some anthropological studies, I think, and the caption just babbled about the various signs that pointed toward the fact that the guy was eaten. I think.

I have a pretty good idea what book it was. If I find the book, I’ll goddamn scan it.

Yes. You guessed it. I found the goddamn book.

And yes, it has the photograph in it. And yes, I frigging scanned it.

I have to say the photograph is a little bit creepy, but not because it’s a gruesome skull of an eaten person. It’s creepy because the photo was totally not what I remembered. Or maybe it’s not actually creepy, now that I can think of it rationally — maybe it’s a sign that my mind is trying to cope with this stuff somehow!

Before I delve to the actual image, I’d like to show you what I actually remember.

This is a doodle that I made today.

Words can’t describe how frustrating it is to try to draw that thing.

Imagine a simple skull. Imagine it being a little bit elongated. Imagine it being fringed at the edges. Imagine the jaw open. Imagine weird white spots in the backs of the eye sockets.

In retrospect, I found this memory really strange. I was basically remembering a bit cartoony skull. A skull that couldn’t possibly look like this in a photograph.

So let’s compare this to the actual photograph in the book. Ready? Here it is.

Caption:

There has frequently been debate on whether cannibalism — using humans as food — a relatively old or a new custom. But this 60,000 year old Neanderthal skull shows that the ways and methods that Melanesian natives use even to this day were already known in those ancient days. This Neanderthal man was, in his day, most certainly — and simply — eaten!

The article was titled “Why humans became cannibals? A few pages from the history of eating people”, by Jens Yde.

I remember opening up the page, and being fucking petrified. I remember reading through the caption. (I was already freaked the hell out, I might have used that time to do something productive, you know.) I particularly remembered the last sentence of the caption. I remember putting the goddamn book to the shelf and not really sleeping that night. And not really wanting to go to the same room where the book was. Ever again.

I’ve messed around in GIMP with that picture today for a while. I was easily able to sleep.

Just that the eyes were weird. Damn.

So I guess I can tell why I had the weird picture of a cartoony skull in my mind. The skull doesn’t look much like a skull. It’s kind of human-like. Weird shape. The eye sockets are weird. The jaw is weird.

So in this light, I guess the cartoony skull kind of makes sense. Very stark black and white photo adds its own creepiness and explains why I had the idea of flanged edges. The strange elongated proportions come from the strange shape of the skull in the photograph. The white dots in the eye sockets are reminiscent of the strange eye sockets.

It’s gruesome and creepy. But I can handle it nowadays.

And I’m so happy I can.